365 Day Song Challenge: Day 10 – “Someone To Love”

Day 10. A song from a band that you think should be more popular

“Someone To Love” — Fountains of Wayne

Someone+To+LoveOkay, first of all, can it really be 10 years since “Stacy’s Mom”?

Second of all, it’s a shame that it’s probably the only song you know by Fountains of Wayne (hereafter referred to as FoW).

But now you’ll know at least two.

Feel free to tell me your opinion below in the comments, but in general, I think it’s a lot harder to discover and “get into” new groups that you really like after the age of 30. Maybe 35. Not only does life sort of take over and you don’t have the time you once did to just listen to music (and I don’t even have kids), but by that age your tastes are pretty firmly ingrained and it’s more difficult to branch out. Laura has to fight with me to throw away old shirts, much less find new music.

So I guess it’s a good thing that FoW are affirmed fans of The Cars. (In fact, if you listen to the opening strains of “Stacy’s Mom” it’s an obvious homage to The Cars’ “Just What I Needed”) Why is this a good thing, you ask? (Yes, I heard you ask, even from over here.)

It’s a good thing because, while it’s been clearly documented (here, here, and here) that Genesis is my favorite band, The Cars are second in line (and were first until about 1992). So the fact that the first song I ever heard by FoW was channeling my second favorite band boded (yes, I had to look that up to see if it was correct) well for me doing some investigation.

Now, I keep talking about “Stacy’s Mom” (from 2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers) like it’s today’s song selection, but it actually isn’t. I decided since this was about a band I wish was more popular that I’d try to force some exposure to other songs in their repertoire. Today’s song, “Someone To Love,” was the first single off their next album, 2007’s Traffic and Weather. It’s typical FoW: Catchy; upbeat; interesting, slightly ironic  story; and a chorus you can kind of bounce around the living room to when no one is looking. (I won’t tell if you don’t.)

Honestly, I can’t quite figure out why they haven’t gotten more attention. Well, on second thought, I suppose I can. They aren’t pretty, don’t twerk, and haven’t been in trouble with the law (that I know of), so they don’t get the media attention. And their music isn’t slick, produced-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life-with-copious-use-of-autotune pop, so Top 40 radio doesn’t take much notice. But their music is definitely pop (I’ve seen it described as power-pop, but I’m still not quite sure what that means); you don’t have to work hard to get into the songs. They are good musicians and songwriters. In fact, bassist Adam Schlesinger wrote the hit title song to the movie That Thing You Do!, as well as the theme song to Kathy Griffin’s talk show (the first probably being more important than the second for most people for some reason).

In short, their stuff is worth checking out. And check them out I did. I now have a pretty good collection of their stuff. But I can’t make them popular on my own. You need to pull your share of the load. So buy something, will ya?

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 9 – “On The Shoreline”

Day 9: A song that if someone said they liked it, you would like them a little bit more

“On The Shoreline” — Genesis

genesis-on-the-shoreline-virgin-csYes, three Genesis songs in five days. I promise this is the last one for a while. This will not be the “365 Songs of Genesis Challenge.” We now take you to our regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.

As we determined in yesterday’s post, I am not of fan of “Hold On My Heart” from Genesis’ We Can’t Dance album.

That said (and I’d gladly say it again), my road to being a Genesis fanatic began with that album. Oh sure, I was a fan before that. I had liked Invisible Touch well enough, and in 1988 my friend “Woody” had introduced me to the rest of Genesis’ 80s output (namely Duke, Abacab and Genesis for those who are interested, and you should be interested. No one leaves here until they say they’re interested!).

Okay. Deep breaths.

Anyway, it was that 1991 collection where I decided I really needed to find out more about these guys, thus starting my journey down the slippery slope to fanatic.

You see, my serious collector bug kicked in and, not being satisfied with albums alone,  I started buying singles to get B-sides, rare edits, live tracks, and so on. (What? Six different “Jesus He Knows Me”singles with marginally different track listings to get different “I Can’t Dance” remixes? No problem!) Yes, it’s collecting. Not a sickness. I’m perfectly fine. Just leave me alone while I rock back and forth…

So one night Woody and I end up in a record shop in Wollongong, NSW after a radio station contest. I saw “No Son Of Mine” bundled with a new “I Can’t Dance” single. Of course, I already had a copy of “No Son Of Mine,” but I had to have that “I Can’t Dance” single! It had an unreleased B-side! I must have it!

Single verily purchased, we head home and frantically put on the new disc to hear the unreleased track, called “On The Shoreline.” Its intro has some interesting sounds (including a reuse of the “elephant” sound from “No Son Of Mine”) and then the music really kicks in. I was hooked after the first few notes.

They had skipped over this to include “Hold On My Heart” on the album? What? Seriously, I had to have been thrown into an alternate universe where Mr. Spock has a beard and Phil, Mike, and Tony have lost their minds. (Yes, a Star Trek reference. The geekdom spreads…)

It didn’t (and still doesn’t) make sense. But then, they’d done the same thing with “Feeding The Fire” and “Do The Neurotic” on Invisible Touch, too, so I guess they’re not infallible. (Seriously, try to track down those tunes, too. Great stuff.)

Twenty-two years later (ouch, I can’t believe I just typed that), “On The Shoreline” still ranks very high on my list of favorite Genesis songs. And, the fact that it never got a proper album release means that it’s virtually unknown outside of the serious Genesis fan community. So, if you randomly came up to me on the street and said “Hey, I really like this Genesis song called ‘On The Shoreline'” I would immediately have some affinity for you. (Assuming you truly liked it weren’t saying that only because you’d read this post.) And thus, its placement in today’s challenge post.

Incidentally, I learned later that it was left off because Mike Rutherford thought “On The Shoreline” sounded like something they’d done before. Mike has always been my least favorite band member, and that didn’t help his standing. Years after that I had an epiphany listening to “Another Record” from Abacab. I can’t confirm this, but the dual chord grouping in each song seems to suggests, at least to me, that Mike may have been thinking of that song.

So, to summarize: “Hold On My Heart” bad. “On The Shoreline” good. You are interested in 80s Genesis output. Find me on the street and make a new friend. Return tomorrow for another post.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 8 – “Hold On My Heart”

Day 8: Your least favorite song from your favorite band

“Hold On My Heart” — Genesis

When I mentioned in the Domino posting a couple of days ago that some people think Genesis sold out, “Hold On My Heart” may be the one song where I can go along with that. (All right, two. “In Too Deep”was a distant second for today’s song.) This song seems like a calculated ploy for an AC hit.

So as you may have divined, Genesis is, indeed, my favorite band. They’re a group that is on the receiving end of a lot of ire. Some fans say they never did a good song after Peter Gabriel left, or that they were no good after Steve Hackett left, or that Phil Collins made them too poppy and ruined the band. I even had one guy comment on a video I posted to YouTube from Genesis’ 2007 tour saying “No Gabriel, no Hackett, no Genesis, a**hole!” Yep, he called me an a**hole for liking a later-era song! (And no, he didn’t use stars.)

So you can see what we’re dealing with here. People are more split on Genesis than Congress is on ObamaCare.

I’m a fan of all eras, with the middle era probably being my favorite, but that can change on a day-by-day basis. So I never bought into the “Phil Collins made them write pop songs” theory. Anyone that knows anything about the band knows that after 1978, they operated as a trio and a pretty democratic trio at that. If the other two guys (Mike Rutherford and, my personal favorite, Tony Banks) didn’t want to go that route, it wouldn’t have happened.

That said, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t write some songs that were just a little too sappy (and poppy) for my taste. Not only is “Hold On My Heart” one of them, it takes the title.

Some fans who like the song claim it’s Banks’ chord progression and selection that makes it rise above the normal pop single. Sure they’re nice, but to me they’re not much different from your typical Phil Collins song. (I like Phil solo, too, but he did go the sappy route far more often than Genesis did.) Truth be told, this is the only Genesis song that I routinely skip when it comes on. It is, without a doubt, their worst. Over a 40 year career spanning 19 studio albums and a whole multitude of songs, that’s saying something.

The fact that they chose to include “Hold On My Heart” on the We Can’t Dance album is mind-boggling to me, since they left two other perfectly good (and, in my opinion, better) songs off the album entirely. (More on that tomorrow.) So it wasn’t like they didn’t have enough material for a whole album; they chose to include it. You can’t see me right now, but I’m shaking my head and trying to keep bile down.

Not only that, but they chose to play it on both the We Can’t Dance tour in 1992 and the Turn It On Again tour in 2007 (the first with Collins after ’92).

And it is here that empirical evidence shows I’m right.

I saw four shows on that 2007 tour, and without fail, most people didn’t move until “Hold On My Heart” came on. And then the bio-break exodus would begin. Every night, like clockwork. (Not for me, I waited too long to see them to miss a single minute of any show, even if it was the worst thing they’ve ever done.)  Perhaps when putting together the set list, they planned it that way. They did stretch the song out a bit live, giving Phil the chance to show off his vocal chops (or what remains of them) at the end. Maybe that was to make sure everyone got back to their seats before “Home By The Sea” started. But somehow I doubt it.

So, I’m taking that as proof there are a whole lot of fans that agree with me.

Or maybe I’m just an a**hole.


365 Day Song Challenge: Day 7 – “Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)”

Day 7: A song that wrenches your heart out from sadness

“Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)” — Jim Croce*

D Minor may be the saddest of all keys (shame on you if you don’t know the reference) but a song doesn’t have to be written in Dm to rip your heart out.

Jim Croce had a career that was incredibly short, but very successful. He released his first solo album in April 1972 and died in a plane crash on September 20, 1973. In that short time, he released two albums (and recorded another that was released posthumously in December 1973) and scored two #1 singles.

He’s classed primarily as a folk singer, I guess, but elements of other genres obviously influence his music. For example, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”is hardly what I would call a folk song. So I guess I would call him a “singer-songwriter” and leave it at that. You should, too.

While he could belt out a foot-stomper, he had a knack for the ballad, as well, which is where the undeserved “folk singer” pigeonhole comes in. Today’s song (which, incidentally, appears to be in the key of G, but I’m open to corrections) is an example of one of those ballads.

It’s amazing, but in three short verses (and I mean short: they’re only four lines each) with a matching number of chorus refrains, the narrator goes from hopeful, standing tall, confident he’s overcome the heartache of a love who betrayed him to once again heartbroken and beaten. You can feel him getting a little more sad and desperate in each verse, as he relates the events to the unheard operator, and your heart breaks along with him. If you can get to the last verse where he quietly tells the operator “you can keep the dime” without feeling some heartache, you’re in desperate need of an emotional overhaul.

This, and the other songs on his Photographs & MemoriesGreatest Hits album, is some of the earliest music I can remember. I recall listening to it in the living room of our house in Willoughby, Ohio. We moved away from there in June of 1977, so I was no more than six at the time.

It was actually an 8-Track tape (and kids, if you don’t remember cassettes, you really won’t remember 8-Tracks). I can still picture it, partly because its plastic housing (at least the copy we had) wasn’t the typical black or white, but a brownish color more in line with the album cover art.

It was also notable because it was one of the extremely rare places where the musical tastes of my brother and my mother intersected. It was my brother’s tape, but my mom played it far more often. I still enjoy it to this day, and recommend you check it out.

Incidentally, Croce died when his chartered plane crashed during takeoff while traveling from one tour stop to another. He was a talent who was taken far too early. Hopefully, he’s not forgotten.

* Another in a long series of changes I made from my original list. My original selection was “You Can Finally Meet My Mom” by Train. Which still rips my heart out, but its recitation of celebrities that have passed on before mentioning the narrator’s lost mother is overall a little cheesy, even if the last line of each verse gets me every time.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 6 – “Ça Plane Pour Moi”

Day 6: A song from an Artist you discovered from a TV show

“Ça Plane Pour Moi” — Plastic Bertrand

Have you ever had your significant other say to you “You’ve got to see this!” and you get a little worried? That happens to me a lot, because I never know if it’s going to be a good thing or a bad thing that I’m about to see.

The details are a bit fuzzy on how we got on the topic, but suffice to say, one day my girlfriend (now wife) Laura out of the blue says “Oh! You gotta see this. It woke me up out of a dead sleep.” I’m thinking explosions or gore or something. So she flips on the TiVo and goes to The Late Late Show listing. Now I’m curious, because I’m not sure what Colin Ferguson could have done to elicit such excitement.

The recording starts and the picture is filled with Christina Perri singing her ballad “Home.” Nice, but not exactly earth-shattering. I give Laura a look that obviously says “You’re out of your gourd.”

“No, no!,” she says. “That was the end of Letterman.” The credits roll, and The Late Show is done.

So now the screen is filled with… Well. I can’t explain it. So I’ve included the video below. But before you watch it, see if your thought timeline matches mine:

0:00 – 0:06: “WTF?”
0:07 – 0:16: “Okay, this is weird.”
0:17 – 0:26: “This is weird but funny.”
0:27 – 0:29: “I am now laughing so hard and loud that I can’t hear… oh crap, I peed my pants…”
0:30 – 0:45: “This is really weird but really funny.”
0:46 – 0:47: “There they are again! This is hilarious! Oh crap, again? I’m too young for Depends…”

At this point I vaguely remember Laura saying she loved the song, me responding that I’d never heard it before, and continuing to watch with some combination of the “WTF?” and “This is hilarious!” modes noted above.

All right, I’ll let you watch it now so you figure out what the hell I’m talking about:

The “performance” bears repeated views because there’s just a lot going on. Some of my favorite things are the rabbit and crocodile (as you may have guessed), the menacing punk-rocker face Colin Ferguson makes during the “guitar solo” from 1:09 to 1:26, and the general chaos ( and Ferguson’s dancing) from 1:43 to about the 2 minute mark.

After we decided we were never ever deleting that from the TiVo (we still have it some 30 months later) she told me how she remembered it growing up. However, I do not remember it at all. I honestly don’t think I’d ever heard it before that moment. But I love it. And I don’t know if it’s the fact that the skit just cracks me up so much or the pseudo-punk catchiness of the song or something else, but it’s now among my favorites. I can’t help but smile when I think of it. In fact, I’ve been looking forward to writing this post because it’s just so much damn fun. I hope you like it, too.

Interesting aside: “Plastic Bertrand” did not actually sing the vocal. It was actually an uncredited “Milli Vanilli” moment by the record’s producer. So there you have it.

I am the king of the divan!